I came back from studying abroad for the Christmas break. Choosing to take a year in Japan rather than face looming graduation, I still chose to return to familiar soil. I didn’t want to miss out on food, family and friends. After four months of living in dormitories, trying to make sense of a new currency and balancing wanderlust with deadlines – it was a well needed break. Since returning and interacting with people of all sorts, I have constantly been faced with questions ranging from “How’s Japan?” to “What’s Japan like?”
“Japan is, like, super futuristic, right?”
Most places in Japan only take cash, and few ATMs take visas or understand the concept of debit cards. The only robot I’ve seen is ASIMO in the Honda Centre. People still buy CDs, rent DVDs, read newspapers and few people have their own laptop or wifi. My closest brush with a futuristic place have been my visits to the hospital where it seems a whole load of money has been pumped into and I have never been so grateful to the Japanese government.
“Are Japanese racist to black people?”
Honestly I don’t know. Personally, the only ignorance or racist views I’ve come across were from other international people. Maybe Japanese people do hate black people, but I’ve been treated pretty well. I’ve only lived here a few months so my experience is still honey-moon-tinted and I’m generally seen as English here.
“People are like so polite and stuff, yeah?”
Some people are, especially in stores. You’ll get complimentary tea and a whole load of bowing and smiles. It’s just the way it is. Politeness is assumed necessary. Whether it’s genuine or false depends on the person, I’m just glad to not have a security guard following me around. If that means being offered free drinks occasionally and staring to the abyss of fake smiles, I’ll take it.
“Japanese people are sooo creative, I mean Hello Kitty,”
I don’t think Japan has the monopoly on creativity, in fact sometimes it feels like it’s constricting creativity, killing imagination and making its young people mindless, aspiration-less drones. And sometimes it’s an amazing wonderland of opportunities and art everywhere. So basically it’s like any other place.
Japan is pretty cool, in the end it’s like anywhere else, maybe cleaner and more efficient. People are people and most of the time people aren’t dicks, depends on how you approach the situation. Sadly it’s not as cool as anime sometimes likes to mislead us. It’s a little expensive but the alcohol is cheap and the food is good.
Yet the stunning nature (more fuggin’ mountains than you can count), the mishmash tower blocks that line cities sat next to ancient temples and shrines straight out of some samurai folklore, all this combined with picturesque seasons make it unique in its own way. Japan is kinda like that, I suppose.
Sam Siva is a third year History student at Sussex as is currently on the Study Abroad programme at ICLA University in Japan.